Monthly Archives: January 2012

Easy Falafel Burgers

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I am not ordinarily a big fan of chickpeas. I usually try to avoid eating them in their whole form because I don’t really like the flavour. However I recently bought a bag of them because they are cheap and nutritious so I thought I should try to find a way to enjoy them. Well, this is the best way!

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This recipe is so easy and fast. If you have dried chickpeas then measure about half a cup of them, soak overnight in lots of cold water (they will double in size). If you want to use chickpeas from a tin instead I am sure that would work just as well.

When they are soaked add half a chopped onion and some coriander (I used a frozen ice cube of coriander from my freezer). I believe cumin might be the traditional seasoning but I didn’t have any so I used a mix of nutmeg, chilli powder and turmeric which worked well. Any herbs or spices should probably work. Blitz it all in the blender.

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Once it is blitzed into about this consistency you can shape them into burgers. I imagine you could actually shape them any way you like, if you wanted smaller pieces for a salad or something. Try to compact them because my only criticism of this recipe is that the burgers crumble easily. You can leave them to dry a bit for half an hour or so if you have extra time or you could prepare them in advance and leave them in the fridge.

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Then you can fry them! You have to be careful sliding the burgers onto your frying pan so they don’t fall apart. One word of warning- they will soak up as much oil as you put on the pan!

I could hardly believe that the chickpeas did not have to be pre-cooked for this recipe but it is true. Just soak, blitz, shape and fry. How easy is that?

Serve on a bun with hummus and fried onions or with a side salad!

Enjoy!

Emma

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Ingredients (makes 2 burgers)

Half cup dried chickpeas

½ a chopped onion

1 handful fresh coriander

1 tsp spice (eg. cumin)

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Baileys Chocolate Cheesecake

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I have been meaning to try this recipe for ages. I have had it bookmarked for months and regularly gazed at it longingly. Well, yesterday we had guests so I decided it was the right opportunity to give this cheesecake a whirl. I believe it was a success!

Because cheesecake does not need to be baked in the oven (this side of the Atlantic at least) it is actually quite a convenient thing to ‘bake’ when you have guests. I made this one in pieces over the course of the day, fitting it in around all the other things I had to do yesterday.

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First off is the most fun job- bashing up half a packet of digestive biscuits in a plastic bag with a rolling pin! The biscuits are added to a pan of melted butter and then compressed into the base of the tin. I deliberately did not bash my biscuits into a fine pulp because I thought it might be nice to leave a few larger lumps. I think this was a mistake. So, I suggest you bash them up properly! The base goes into the fridge to ‘set’ for an hour at least.

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Next is the most tedious task of the lot- you have to grate 100g of chocolate. This is not really a fun job, it takes ages and the chocolate wants to melt. Plus it just gets everywhere. Whilst grating it I considered that maybe the cake could live without chocolate but having now finished and consumed some of it I have changed my mind about that. Grate the chocolate, it is worth it in the end!

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Next I learnt the truth about how unhealthy cheesecake really is! Heh heh! 600g of cream cheese is a lot, plus a big packet of double cream, 100g icing sugar (the recipe called for 100ml but this seems to be a typo and it should be 100g). sometimes it is good to make your own food just to see exactly how much ‘bad’ stuff goes in there! I am not saying that people should not eat cake or sweets, but it is a good deterrent when you are considering having seconds or thirds! By the way I obviously doubled the amount of Baileys called for in the recipe and I would suggest you could even double it again. Look how yummy it looks mixing into the cream cheese.

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So you have already beaten the cream cheese, icing sugar and baileys together. Now fold in the whipped cream and grated chocolate then pour onto the base. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, carefully remove the tin and serve!

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This cake was so tasty and even though it is a bit finnicky to make it is not actually difficult so it is a good cake for entertaining. I bought half fat cream cheese out of habit and worried it might not be thick enough. After a few hours out of the tin the whole cake was sagging a little but not that badly really so I think it was an acceptable substitution.

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Mmm, looking at all these pictures of it is making me want another slice now…

Enjoy!

Original recipe here.

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2012 New Year’s Gardening Resolutions

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Bouncing off the back of my last post I have been planning, scheming and plotting for 2012.

Last year was my first year gardening so it was quite higgledy piggeldy. I made all the classic beginner errors like planting too many seeds, watering too much or too little, suffocating my plants with affection… This year I am planning (fingers crossed) to make a few changes to the format.

1. Quality not quantity; this year I am planning to grow fewer types of vegetables but to grow more varieties of the same types. This should keep things simpler without making it boring.

2. Patience and timing; I will try to sow all my seeds at the correct time. I was so naughty last year, I planted them whenever I wanted; but then I felt bad when they didn’t germinate or died.

3. A feast for the eyes as well as the tummy; I am going to try really hard to keep my garden pretty and tidy all the time and not abandon it when it starts to get problematic or plants start to die (ahem).

4. Share; I am going to try to share my garden with people by sharing food and seeds from the garden with other people (especially if I finally get a glut of something).

That’s my list, for now. I may change my mind in a week but I think that is a broad enough plan for me to be able to stick to. Now, all that remains is to get started!

Emma

5 Container Gardening Lessons

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Over the past year I have learned a few things -through trial and error- about growing food with limited space. Here is a re-cap of my top five tips for container gardeners;

1. No roots; this was not immediately obvious to me but growing root vegetables like carrots is pretty space inefficient. When you have limited space you have to maximise what you grow. Root vegetables are frequently pretty cheap to buy as well so economically they are a poor choice for expensive container growing.

2. Timing is everything; crops like tomatoes can be quite productive but they can also take a long time to mature. In the end our four tomato plants gave us a bounty of cherry tomatoes which we still enjoy most days, but they also took up considerable space for the entire summer, not to mention all the hours I spent dragging watering cans out to them all summer.

3. Herbs; this is easy. Herbs are great value for money and space. Fresh herbs are expensive to buy and have a short shelf life. You can grow lots of different herbs in containers and some will even last from year to year, like rosemary or mint. Also, because the plants are small they tend to mature quickly, giving you a quick return on your space.

4. Size matters; this might be obvious to more experienced gardeners but beginners like me can still underestimate the size of mature plants when we sow the first seeds. I sowed courgettes and French beans at the same time last spring. By the end of the summer the French beans had climbed very tall, didn’t get any diseases and gave us loads of food. The courgette plants took up about three times more space and gave very little food as they got disease. The disease was certainly partially to blame for our courgette disappointment but overall the beans were just a lot more space efficient in a small area.

5. Beauty and the beast; something I probably overlooked in my first year was considering the flowers on the plants I chose to grow. The tomatoes, courgettes and beans all flowered and it really was a beautiful sight to see. In 2012 I plan to grow more plants for their beauty as well as their culinary usefulness. I think this is an important lesson for small space gardeners- yield is not the only factor, think about how happy it will make you to sit and admire a beautiful garden!

So those are my top tips after one year trying to grow my own vegetables in pots. I hope they are useful to people who are just starting out.

Emma

Looking Back at 2011

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I can hardly believe it is January already. What happened to the long, quiet winter I was expecting? Once we finally did a big garden clear up (November) I was expecting to spend quiet Sunday afternoons dreaming about the year past and contemplating the growing season to come. Well, now it is a new year and with no snow in sight I am beginning to feel the need to decide and get ordering seeds!

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Nonetheless I feel it would be appropriate to indulge in a little bit of reminiscing about the past 12 months, as quite a lot did happen. 2011 started with us returning to China to find our crops still surviving- amazingly- after our two week trip to Europe. The main success of our Kunming garden was definitely the two tomato plants which grew to over a metre tall each and had already set flowers by the time we had to give them away and move to London (*tear*).

Once we arrived in England we started our speculative garden before we even had a home to call our own. This resulted in all of our ‘seedlings’ growing far too big to be reasonably moved before we got around to moving them; in a car brim full of mature tomato, courgette, French bean strawberry and basil plants! That was quite the fragrant 20 mile drive into central London!

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Once we had settled in our new flat and our plants had -amazingly- recovered from the move we decided we needed more gardening supplies, now without the use of a borrowed car. Our trip to our ‘local’ B&Q (on the bus, with a borrowed ‘sack truck’) was definitely a comic highlight of the summer! The decision to buy 240litres of compost instead of a more reasonable 70 or so may have seemed rash at the time (it did) but we have not had to return to the shops yet so I guess I am willing to concede that Adam was correct and it probably was worth making the extra sacrifice at the time (despite barely being able to lift the truck onto the bus and then having to try and hold it steady for 20minutes of journey through narrow winding streets and finally the extra 10 minute walk at each end of the bus journey!).

As far as the garden was concerned, on top of the main events happening outside –french beans (a big success), tomatoes (another big hit), courgettes (short lived success), strawberries (we’re hopeful for next summer!) and potatoes (umm, suspected blight)- we also grew enough basil to feed an army (of basil loving Italians), tons of mint (for mint tea and summery evenings of mojitos), a few radishes, some spinach, pea shoots, a collection of other herbs we never figured out how to eat (lemon balm, sage and marjoram) plus a couple of rosemary and bay cuttings. So, we got plenty of food!

The tomato plants survived all sorts of diseases, stresses and mis-treatment but by the end of the summer it was the courgettes who finally gave up and succumbed to a bout of powdery mildew. It was a sad day when I had to finally dispose of their dry, exhausted remains. Other minor failure stories -which I don’t want to dwell on but feel it would be unfair not to mention- included beetroot, turnips and pak choi (they just did not grow), potatoes (ok we got some spuds from them but the plants withered and were consequently less than productive) and chives (I tried to plant chive seeds three times and none ever sprouted).

I think it is only fair to call 2011 an overall success because I transformed from somebody who had only ever transplanted pot plants or killed shop bought herbs into a small time gardener with a freezer full of tomatoes and basil and a kilo or two of baby potatoes still in the kitchen! Here’s to another successful year in the garden!

Emma

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